I love to cook. I love when I find just the right ingredients, in just the right servings, that make up the perfect meal. Maybe that’s why I love social media so much, too. Cooking a great meal is a lot like creating a social media strategy that makes your followers salivate (just like my family does for that perfectly fixed home cooked meal!).

It’s about finding the right angle, using the right kind of language that speaks to your followers, posting at the right frequency and providing a holistic view of how your company radiates as a brand. These are important things to communicate to your audience, and brands boycotting social media are missing out on this great opportunity.

What’s In A Brand?

I’m inclined to draw a distinction between a company and a brand, though, because they’re two different things.

A company is an organization of people, all working together toward a common goal. I think of a company as a bare tree in the winter—only the trunk, bark and branches. A brand, though, is all the impressions, experiences and emotions evoked externally surrounding a company—the life-filled leaves of spring time that cover the tree. All brands, together, make up the confusing, dare I say, daunting forest that customers must walk through in search of that metaphorical leafy tree of life they need.

Social media, then, can be understood as the seed by which the forest spreads. At its core, social media is nothing more than the marketing content we produce and share via various social platforms. When this marketing content is fire, as Jay Baer says, social media is the gasoline.

People Are Social; Brands Should Be, Too

In his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How To Tell Your Story In A Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk, an esteemed business thought leader, points out that “all companies are media companies” and should leverage social media in the right way, appealing to the right people, while staying a step ahead.

And he’s right. The fact is that people are going to talk about your brand on social media whether you like it or not, so wouldn’t you rather be a part of the conversation? You can’t always control the message but you can provide a positive social media experience for a consumer that could earn instant loyalty. The ROI for social media in general makes it well worth it for companies to invest some serious time and thought into making their company into a social brand. How they do it must be unique and authentic.

Why? Consumers, business people, companies and employees all use social media. But it’s time to forget the classifications—these are people. Around 80 percent of all people age 18-49 use social networking sites. The trend is social, period.

Tools for Campaign Managers Who Want Data-Driven StrategiesThe Recipe For Success

KISSmetrics recently posted about the most active industries on social media. The automotive industry leads the way, followed by airlines, fashion, alcohol, and so on. This is not surprising in the least. Each of these industries relies on consumers—eh hem, excuse me, people—to function.

Here are some quick best practice tips I try to follow as much as possible to optimize social:

  • Short & sweet: Keep tweets shorter than 140 characters. If possible, shorter is always better.
  • Offer value: Say something in a way that no one has ever said it before—people want to be entertained and informed.
  • Be visual: Provide pictures or multimedia when you can.
  • Ask questions: Find out what your consumers want to know and try to give it to them.
  • Remember the ‘social’ in social media: Engage, interact and talk with your consumers.
  • Be gracious: Share content, give thanks, be positive.
  • Be authentic: “Just be yourself and people will like you” is always good advice.

It’s clear that without an established, up-to-the-minute social media presence, brands boycotting social media are overlooked in the mind of the consumers they need to connect with. It’s worth repeating: People are social; brands should be, too.